Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I have been remiss in completing this tale, so will try to at least take you through the next leg of our journey. By the time Cathy (LECATES) dropped us at the entrance to the station and we swapped hugs and thank yous, it had begun to snow lightly. We encouraged Cathy not to hang around because we wanted her to get out of the city before the snow got serious. This is our last look from Union Station, DC
We were early but had reserved a sleeping berth, so enjoyed the benefit of the First Class waiting area inside. Once we were called to board, we had to walk to the front of this train--can YOU see where it ends? It was LONG!
When we finally found our car, I must have boarded ahead of Steve because he got lost while trying to video. He turned left instead of right and ended up in the wrong end of the car, calling my name--what a tourist! Eventually, he ran out of car and turned around and found me. We had what is called a Roomette and I think that's a pretty cute name for what we had. I know we are giving away our ages here, but decided that the bed, once it was made out, was reminiscent of the bench seat of a '57 Chevy. Still, it was much more comfortable for sleeping than the Coach seats and we were thrilled.
For quite a while after departure, we viewed the backsides of businesses and neighborhoods, which weren't all that appealing; however, the view soon turned to some nice neighborhoods and countryside as we left the city. Most of our pics were on video at that point so I can't post them here; however, we did see this terrific old train station and roundhouse! I just wish I could remember where it was...maybe someone will recognize it and post it in the comments. Isn't this a great old building?
Arriving in Chicago, we were once again amazed at the network of rails beneath the city! The photos we took don't begin to show it all, so I won't waste the space here.
I knew that our son's fiance' would be waiting for us, so we hurried through the baggage claim and out to greet her. (She is attending N.W. School of Law there while our son is working on becoming a fireman in CA) We hadn't seen her since Christmas and were quite excited to be in "her" city. Just as we finished our hugs and hellos and were preparing to move out, a man in a jacket and dark glasses sidled up to us. Steve thought he was going to ask us for something when he heard me squeal--it was our son!!! He had flown out to spend Spring break with his lady and surprise us!
We could not stop laughing for the longest time--what a great surprise!
We took turns taking pictures of each other until someone finally offered to take one of all of us together~
The kids walked us to our hotel, which was about 5 blocks from the station and we did an early check-in and left our baggage, then they took us to a little bistro for lunch. We sat there for hours, just talking and catching up. Fortunately, it was not a busy time and the waitress didn't mind us taking up a back table for such a long time. Look at how our son looks at her when she talks...can you tell he's in love?
Our DIL wanted to show us where she went to school, so we got a custom tour of Northwestern School of Law and met some of her classmates. It was very impressive--quite historical, with lots of antiques and portraits of famous lawyers. It was getting colder by the time our tour ended and no one wanted to stay outside for long. Steve and I had talked about trying some authentic Chicago-style pizza while we were in town, so we all hopped into a cab and went to Giordano's. We knew by the long line that it was a local favorite and we were not disappointed!
After dinner and many more hugs and goodbyes, the kids put us in a cab back to our hotel and they caught the train back to her place on the other side of town. Our room was on the 19th floor and when we looked out the window, we still had to crane our necks to see the top floors of the buildings next door! So many tall buildings!
The king-sized bed gave me room to spread out all my knitting projects and yarn and reorganize them for the next leg of our journey. By this time, I had finished 3 small pairs of socks for some grandchildren and a pair for myself and I was able to condense some of my carry on bags. (Socks don't take up as much room as the yarn it took to make them) My next project was to finish a skirt for a granddaughter that was too short. I needed to add at least another six inches to the length and would have plenty of time since the next leg of our journey would take two days.
Since our train didn't leave until after 2:00 pm, we lingered over our complimentary breakfast and watched the city come alive. Taxis, delivery trucks, people everywhere rushing off to work--and we just watched and enjoyed another cup of coffee. The two women who were attending the breakfast room were simply jubilant as they went about their work and I noticed that one of them was humming the tunes to some of my favorite hymns. When I commented that I loved her music, she said, "Well Honey, we must be related, then!" LOL I replied that I suspected so.
We stayed at the hotel until checkout time and then walked the 5 blocks back to Union Station where we again enjoyed the First Class waiting area. We were able to check our bags into a secured area instead of carting everything with us and were offered free juices or coffee while we watched TV or used the free WiFi. They called us in plenty of time to collect our bags and prepare to board when our time came, so we could just relax. That was nice!
This time we had reserved a Deluxe bedroom, so we had quite a bit more room on the train.
We even had our own bathroom with shower, but I wouldn't have wanted to drop the soap because there wasn't enough room to bend over and pick it up! Nevertheless, we settled in quickly and were quite comfortable--wouldn't you agree?
As we left the station, our sleeping car attendant came around to introduce himself and see if we needed anything. He said that someone would come and make our dinner reservations shortly and to ring the bell if we needed any assistance. He introduced himself as Louis King, "...but you can call me King Louie!" A short while later, he returned with two glasses and a small bottle of champagne (or sparkling cider if we preferred) and a small basket of chocolate candy, compliments of Amtrak. We later found that this was the last time this service would be offered due to budget cuts, so we felt fortunate to have been able to celebrate the occasion.
As I said, this would be a two-day trip across the northern states. Next stop, Seattle.
Friday, May 02, 2014
The USA Rail passes I had purchased gave us 30 days to take up to 12 rides (in Coach) on almost any Amtrak line, getting on and off anywhere we chose. Of course, we still had to make reservations to be sure to have a seat in the event that the train was full. Additionally, we were able to upgrade along the way if we wanted to, and if a sleeping berth was available. I had had to change my reservations more than once both before our departure and then along the way and on every occasion, we found Amtrak's customer service to be exemplary! I know I sound like a commercial, but I will gladly give them some free advertisement because it was that good! We are not inveterate travelers and I had a lot of questions to ask when I called and I never felt rushed or cut short; rather, it was quite the opposite and I was, and still am impressed!
As I said in Pt. 1 of this saga, the train was 2 hours late leaving Savannah and I was concerned that my Spark friend, Cathy (LECATES - fearless leader of the Almost Empty Nesters team) would be inconvenienced by the delay, as the traffic in DC is fairly hideous at times. But the train was able to make up quite a bit of time once leaving GA and I think we arrived at Union Station just about 30 behind schedule, so Cathy was able to avoid the worst of rush hour.
Planning what clothes to pack for this trip was a challenge because we were starting out in Florida, but would be making our way through DC, Chicago and Seattle before heading back to California. The polar vortex had been wreaking havoc in Chicago and DC was covered in snow when we left California, and who knew what Seattle would be doing by the time we got there! I knew we would need lots of layers but it all had to fit into two carry-on suitcases and be manageable for the two of us when combined with the several other bags of miscellaneous necessities (our pillows and travel blankets, our electronic devices, my 2 knitting bags, my CPap machine, and my purse) that had to come along. Needless to say, we were thrilled to see sunshine in Maryland!
By order of my husband, I need to tell you about our first contact with Cathy. By the time we had gathered our luggage and were headed toward the front door of Union Station, my cellphone was ringing. It was Cathy, saying that she couldn't find any place to park and she needed a bathroom SOON! We made our way to the front of the station and stood where we would be most visible and waited for her to find her way back. We soon saw a woman waving from a car quite a way back in the queue for loading and unloading passengers. Traffic was stopped, so we hurried to where she was and before the traffic could move forward, she had jumped out of the car, greeted us, tossed Steve the keys and she and I hustled back inside the station to find the ladies' room, leaving Steve to take his time loading the car! (First things FIRST, you know!) The reason I had to tell this part of our story is because my Prince said that I had to tell everyone that Cathy and I, upon meeting for the very first time, IMMEDIATELY had to do the "girl thing" and run to the ladies room together! We laughed later when Steve asked Cathy, "How did you know we were the right couple? You could have been giving your car keys to a stranger!" Cathy told him that, at that moment, she didn't really care! We can all relate, right ladies?
Here is a photo of the inside hall of Union Station in DC. (the restrooms are all the way on the other side!)
We had to run through this huge room...
and then through this room...
...to get to the Ladies Room!
Then back all the way out to this covered area just outside the front of the station where my husband was trying to wave cars past him as he waited for the two crazy women who had run off and left him standing out there.
We enjoyed the rest of the day in DC just walking the Mall, visiting museums, chatting and getting more acquainted. We spent most of our time Friday in the Holocaust Museum--that's not a place to rush through--then walked down to another museum to have lunch. I think I logged 12,000 steps that day, if I remember correctly, and we barely noticed with all the fun we were having. Steve insisted on riding in the backseat all the time and now I see why--but I don't know why he was taking pictures of the backs of our heads!
Cathy and her husband were delightful hosts and made us feel right at home in their guest room. In the four days we stayed with them, we walked the trail through the park and zoo, toured their town and saw the school where Cathy works and took a trip to Ocean City where we sampled some very decadent Thrasher's Fries, among other things. We went to dinner with Cathy's mother at a great little dinner house that is owned by some old family friends where they specialize in home-style Eastern Shore cooking. Everything was fabulous and we all ate too much--at least I did! Back at the house, Steve and I taught Cathy to play a couple of our favorite card games and then on Sunday we attended Cathy's church and met more of her friends. (Most of my pics of these days are on my Spark Page)
Monday was our last day in Maryland and it was as if we had saved the best for last--we were going north to meet the ferry from New Jersey that would bring Dianne (DIANNEMT), another friend and Empty Nester! We were SO excited to finally be able to meet face to face!
Do we look excited?
A happy trio~
Then it was, "Where should we go that we can sit and talk for a few hours?"
Panera was perfect!
The time flew by WAY too quickly! We talked and laughed and joked and ate and took pictures--Steve took some with Dianne's IPad that caught some wonderful expressions (that she said would be deleted as soon as she got home!)--and then it was time to take her back to the ferry, but first...
...that's right--a trip to the Ladies' room! (and aren't we all glad I brought my Prince so he could document it?)
Cathy and I both wished we could have kept Dianne with us a bit longer, or that we might all have been able to meet up with others from our team. It was not meant to be this time, but our visit encouraged us all to look for opportunities to meet up with some of our long-time online Spark friends. I think we all agree that it helped to cement our friendships even more and make them more tangible--and it showed my husband that the time I spend on the computer is time spent with real people who really care about me! What a treat!
Saying goodbye to Dianne wasn't as much fun as saying hello~
One more night to play cards with Cathy and then back to the train station. Next stop: Chicago!
Monday, April 28, 2014
I have been wanting to take a trip on the train for a few years now and my husband finally agreed to let me research it to see whether or not we could afford it. When I received the dates for the National Conference for one of our favorite ministries, he gave me the go-ahead and I made our reservations. We decided to fly to Orlando, FL for the conference and then take Amtrak all the way back to Sacramento, CA. In doing my research, I learned that Amtrak offers USA Rail passes that would allow us to get on and off the train anywhere along the route, so we would be able to arrange visits with family and friends on our way home.
Our rail trek began at this quaint old station in Orlando, FL. The weather was glorious here, but were heading north where 6 inches of snow had fallen earlier in the week. We were hoping it would be gone by the time we got to DC. We arrived at the Orlando station 2 hours early to make sure nothing went wrong--and then learned that the train was running 2-3 hrs late! Some folks became increasingly agitated over the delay, but DH had his electronic reader and I had my knitting so we were content to enjoy the warm Florida sunshine and relax. We had stopped at a Popeye's chicken place and bought our dinner to eat on the train and had some water, fruit and snacks from the grocery store so we were set. Others had not planned as well and ended up eating from the vending machines at the station.
Here's the Orlando Amtrak station~
Here I am as we were finally on our way...first stop, Jacksonville!
My aunt was waiting at the Jacksonville station and our delay had given her time to run errands and do some grocery shopping. She had called all my local cousins to a family dinner in honor of our visit and needed to stock up a bit, so the delay wasn't as much of an inconvenience as we had feared. It was wonderful to spend some time with cousins I haven't seen in years and to get to know their children and grandchildren. We reminisced about our summer visits when we were children and ate, and talked and ate some more. I told my Spark team that I had to get out of the South soon or I'd be finding out what size jeans came after this one--and not because I was getting smaller! My uncle was a farmer and still grows a "small" garden (nearly an acre!) just for something to do!
Here's a photo of Steve and Uncle just before we left
My aunt drove us up to Savannah, where her youngest son lives with his family. We were only there for a night and the next day as our train was scheduled to leave Savannah at 7:30 pm. We spent the morning at the riverfront and the afternoon at Tybee Island, where my cousin has a vacation home. (photos are on my Spark page) Once again, we stopped for a take-out dinner to eat on the train (deli sandwiches this time) and were thankful, as the train was 2 hrs. late again. This was the same line that came from Miami to DC and we were told that the delays were due to work being done on the rails, among other things.
The only part about the delays that disturbed us was the inconvenience it might cause to the folks who were picking us up. Thankfully, we were able to communicate with them well in advance. Again, Steve had his reader and I was knitting up a storm!
Next stop--Washington, DC!
Friday, March 28, 2014
Rugby, North Dakota. That's what the sign said at the railway station we just passed. Now there's another bit of trivia to clutter up my brain. Until this trip I had never seen this part of the country and I am finding it to be beautiful, albeit in a desolate, wintery kind of way. I know it will look much different in a few months when the corn and other crops are high.
This is as the sun was coming up behind me.
This is all for now as blogging from my phone is not easy.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
While others rose early (or never went to bed) after Thanksgiving, we opted to sleep until we felt rested, made a light brunch and enjoyed a quiet morning. Later, our 3 eldest kids and our nephew joined us, bringing their families with them and helped pack sandwiches, snacks and several thermoses of cocoa and coffee to take on our expedition.
The guys found a couple of bow saws and some limb loppers, I made sure I had some work gloves, and we were off! We headed up into the mountains to look for our Christmas trees. What a wonderful way to spend the day! No lines, no traffic, no competition with angry shoppers--just fresh air and family fun.
We stopped a few times to scout an area and the men conferred while the ladies checked out the trees. The kids and dogs were happy to be able to run around for a bit.
We eventually found the right area and let the kids out of the vehicles. DS1 loves climbing rocks and quickly found some. He must have had 6 kids scrambling up behind him.
We built up a little campfire to warm up to and took turns tending it and watching the little ones and drinking hot chocolate.
We found nice trees for everyone and made some sweet memories~
I have much to be thankful for--
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